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Blog #8 Latin America

Fernando Botero
Circus Act, 2008

Fernando Botero was born in Medellin, Colombia in 1932 and is considered Latin America’s most famous and most beloved artist. He is a painter, sculptor, and draftsman and he was influenced heavily by both native and colonial art and architecture.

His Circus Series clearly shows his extravagantly rounded, robust forms that he is renowned for. They are recognizable around the world.

 I loved the whole Circus Series but the one I chose to post on here, Circus Act,  especially appealed to me. Although the woman is obviously a circus performer she is so serious and soulful. In all of his circus paintings the people are never smiling and their gaze is always distant as if they have a lot on their minds. Although the costumes are vibrant making the paintings appear colourful and bright the paintings are actually quite muted and sombre. In this painting there is strange vulnerability about the performer. Her small eyes, especially when compared to the largeness of the rest of her body, appear somewhat fearful to me. Although this painting is rather melancholy portraying the performers loneliness, it also has a certain humour about it due to the unique distinctive exaggerated human form.


Blog #7 African Art

 Wiz Kudowor, Flaming Passions, Date unknown.

Wisdom ‘Wiz’ Kudowor (born September 19, 1957) is currently one of Ghana’s most respected and applauded contemporary artists whose works recall traditional Ghanaian paintings and explore the themes of surrealism, spirituality and abstraction. “His work is surreal in that it pushes against the ordinary representation to portray staggeringly evocative truths about humanity”. 

When I initially glanced at this painting I did not see the two bodies embracing, but on closer inspection I first noticed the hand, which led me to see the bodies and face. This is a wonderfully evocative painting that reveals far more than you anticipate on first glance. I love its distinct cultural essence fluidity of movement as portrayed in the flames. I was also impressed how he cleverly disguised the bodies within an abstract theme. There is certain spirituality for me by using the flames to hide the bodies that are engulfed in the flames of passion. His technique is wonderfully intricate as the flames take the altered form as lovers in embrace.

Blog #6 – Modern Architectural Marvels or Expensive Eyesores?

As architectural design changes over time so does the traditional landscape of European cities. The buildings I have chosen to look at are considered by many as modern architectural marvels but others see them as expensive eyesores. I have chosen buildings in London with the exception of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, as I could not discuss modern architecture without mentioning what has become one of the most remarkable buildings of the twentieth century.

Pompidou Centre, Paris, 1971-1977

Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers

Renzo Piano was born in Genoa, Italy in 1937. From 1959 to 1964 he studied at the Milan Politecnico, where he taught until 1968. In 1970 Piano established a partnership with the English architect Richard Rogers. President Georges Pompidou wanted to create an original cultural institution in the heart of Paris focussed on modern and contemporary creation and held a competition which was won by Piano and Rogers. They were required to complete an architectural project that had to meet the criteria of “interdisciplinarity, freedom of movement and flow, and an open approach to exhibition areas”. The Pompidou Centre was built with steel and was shocking with its colour-coded plumbing and its exhibitionist structure and was regarded as ugly by traditionalists when it was first built but it is now seen as an “enormous achievement, technically and conceptually”. This is truly a fun building and I love the flowing design and the innovative way they freed up space inside by placing the escalators on the outside of the building.

Richard Rogers was born in Florence, Italy in 1933. He attended the Architectural Association School in London before graduating from Yale University. After the completion of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Richard Rogers Partnership was formed. His works reject the classical past and his interest in uninterrupted interior spaces has made Rogers an heir to the functionalist tradition. His concern with total flexibility and obvious technical imagery has been termed Late Modern.

Lloyds of London Building, London, 1978-1984

Richard Rogers Partnership

After winning another competition, to replace the existing headquarters of Lloyd’s with a new structure Rogers took the technological expressionism of the Pompidou Centre to its extreme. With this project Rogers was inspired by a determination to work with the visual grain of the city and did not want the building to look out of place, I really like the aesthetics of the building but some feel it is out of place and it is known by some as the inside-out building. Like the Pompidou Centre, the building was innovative in having its services such as staircases, lifts, electrical power conduits and water pipes on the outside, leaving an uncluttered space inside. The twelve glass lifts were the first of their kind in the UK.

Millennium Dome, London, 1996-2000

Richard Rogers Partnership

The Millennium Dome was commissioned to mark the beginning of the new Millennium, it was an exposition hall made of a fabric enclosure with tensile support and “was intended as a celebratory, iconic, non-hierarchical structure offering a vast, flexible space”. The Dome attracted intense media coverage and generated more political and public debate than any other British building of the last 100 years. the building itself was remarkably inexpensive. More than 6 million people visited the attraction during 2000, me included. There was a wide variety of exhibits and an amazing show similar to the Cirque du Soleil shows. Although I like this monumental building for me it is not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the others included here but I did feel it was worthy of being included.The Dome has now become the home of the O2 arena, one of the UK’s most popular music venues.

Norman Foster was born in Manchester, England in 1935. He received his architectural training at Manchester University School of Architecture, which he entered at age 21, and Yale University, where he met Richard Rogers. He worked with Richard Rogers and Sue Rogers and his wife, Wendy Foster, as a member of “Team 4” until Foster Associates was founded in London in 1967. Foster has generated a sophisticated architecture based in technology and his firm’s work shows a dedication to architectural detailing and craftsmanship.

Millennium Bridge, London, 1996-2000

Foster and Partners

The Millennium Bridge was developed with sculptor Anthony Caro and engineers Arup, the commission resulted from an international competition. A shallow suspension structure, it is London’s only pedestrian bridge and the first new Thames crossing since Tower Bridge in 1894.The bridge has a uniquely thin profile, forming a slender arc across the water, and spanning the greatest possible distance with the minimum means. The bridge opened in June 2000 and an astonishing 100,000 people crossed it during the first weekend. However, under this heavy traffic the bridge exhibited greater than expected lateral movement, and as a result it was temporarily closed. Extensive research and testing revealed that synchronised pedestrian walking caused this movement. The solution was to fit dampers discreetly beneath the deck which proved highly successful and the research undertaken by the engineers has resulted in changes to the codes for bridge building worldwide. Although not a building I chose this bridge, as it is a wonderful modern achievement that springs from a dynamic collaboration between engineering, art and architecture.

London City Hall, London, 1998-2003

Foster and Partners

The goal was to create a headquarters building for London’s mayor and the Greater London Authority that would become a new landmark for the capital. It is a visionary feat of design and engineering. Its shape is derived from a geometrically modified sphere and portrays a revolutionary appearance. It seemed initially that the new city hall would be slightly out of context, given its location near historic landmarks, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, but as the surrounding buildings rise around it, London City Hall begins to “perform its duty as a trendsetter for the future of London”.

Swiss Re Tower, London, 1997-2004

Foster and Partners

Set in London’s financial district and officially known as the Swiss Re Tower this buildings distinctive shape has already made it recognizable landmark. The 590-foot- high, 40-story, 76,400-square-meter Swiss Re Tower is said to be London’s first environmental skyscraper. The idea behind the overall form is to forge a connection with nature and although dubbed “Gherkin,” the spiral in its shape more resembles a pinecone. The tower’s uniqueness is reflected in the fact that there is little chance of a duplicate being built. It has become a recognized addition to the city’s high-profile skyline that includes St Paul’s Cathedral, which speaks volumes for its impact and acceptability. However there are those who see the new tower as a building out of context with its surroundings.

There are obviously numerous modern buildings being added to European cities that are changing the traditional landscape, which for many are considered eyesores rather than visionary marvels. I chose these buildings as to me they portrayed a good example of the variety of modern architecture and how it can be blended into historical surroundings. I actually like all of the buildings included here, they are all truly amazing architectural designs and due to the approach of each of the architects I feel they add to rather than detract from the London skyline.’s_building

Blog #5 Gaudi

Gaudi’s beloved unfinished masterpiece.

Placa de la Sagrada Familia, 1883-1926, Barcelona Spain, Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi was one of the most important modernist style architects worldwide, his attempt to build a 20th century “expressionist” cathedral – the Sagrada Familia – is probably his best known work. This still unfinished project preoccupied his life from 1914 until his death in 1926. In this project Gaudi joined the Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau styles to create an entirely original style and produce one of the most dramatic architectural compositions of the 19th century.

When work began in 1882, the original architects, bricklayers and labourers worked in a traditional way, but when Gaudi took over the project in 1883 he tried to take advantage of all the modern techniques available. He had railway tracks laid with small wagons to bring in the materials, used cranes to lift the weights and had the workshops located on the site to make the work easier.

As this project was being funded entirely on donations it was not affected by World War I unlike some of his other projects, such as Parc Guell, which was finished incomplete from the original plans in 1914, due to the onset of World War I and diminished support from the bourgeoisie.

Gaudi was an ingenious architect and is as remarkable for his innovations in technology as for his aesthetic genius. He applied structural solutions learnt by observing nature and the Cathedrals structure “is formed based on leaning columns, with abundant ramifications in the upper sections, whose branches hold up small fragments of hyperboloid vaults, which produce the effect of a forest”. He constructed various models with weights that enabled him to achieve his unusual building shapes and he is greatly admired for his use of the hyperbolic paraboloid form.

The photos included here are some of the ones I took when I visited the Cathedral in 2004. They really do not do this wondrous architectural masterpiece justice, as it is truly the most amazing work of art. I was in awe at the imagination and depth of detail of Gaudi’s design and no matter how much I describe how incredible it is I do not feel words can do it justice. The last link I have included is to the website for the Sagrada Familia which has a variety of other fantastic photos, enjoy!

Blog #4 Impressionism leaves quite an Impression!

Impressionism leaves quite an Impression!

Whether you love it, hate it or fall somewhere in between the Impressionist style of painting had a profound and lasting effect on the art world. I actually enjoy looking at the Impressionist paintings especially those by Monet and Renoir whose pieces produced during the summer of 1869 and generally attributed to be the first impressionist paintings. I also really enjoy the Post Impressionist work of Van Gogh.

Impressionism enabled an artist to convey the emotional element of feeling ordinary things that was never revealed before in the meticulous and calculated Classicism or in the theatrical Romanticism. Realist painters had already initiated a huge change in style, rejecting the artificiality of Classicism and Romanticism and introducing realistic elements into academic art, emphasising the phenomenon of light, truthful and accurate depiction of the models that nature and contemporary life offer to the artist. But unlike the Impressionists they continued to adhere to the traditional rules of composition. Realism really bridged the gap between the Romantic and Impressionist movements.

The Impressionist style discouraged and abandoned the recreation of objective reality as used by the earlier Realist painters and replaced it with practice of developing one’s subjective response to a piece of work to actual experience. Impressionism really rocked the boat with their new radical style. The visible brush strokes and sketchiness of the style made critics complain that the paintings did not look finished.

I have chosen two paintings both depicting the Cliffs at Etretat. This area off the Normandy coast in France was an area that became very fashionable with Parisians and was also widely used by a great many artists including the Realist painter Courbet and Impressionist   painter Monet. I feel that these two paintings clearly show the differences between the Realist and Impressionist style.

The painting below Cliffs at Etretat after the Storm was painted in 1870 in Normandy by Realist painter, Gustave Courbet who was actually a source of inspiration to the impressionists. It is a great example of how the Realist painters painted scenes as they appeared. This is painting is true to nature depicting the details of the rugged cliff face and the definition of each wave and cloud. It is realistic view of the picturesque location.

Claude Monet actually painted more than 60 paintings at Etretat but the one I chose to look at is The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset, which he painted in 1883 at Etretat, Normandy.

You can see in Monet’s painting is far more or an impression than a realistic view. His focus of attention is on the effects of light and the reflections on the constantly changing surface of the water. Instead of focusing on the reality of the scene as Courbet does he portrays the emotion of what he observed as he looked over the water. There are many different brush strokes creating the impression of movement on the waters surface.

Blog #3 Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven 
5th Symphony   Vienna 1807-1808

Click on the picture to hear it >>>

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is probably one of the most popular and well-known compositions of the classical era. This symphony was composed during what had been termed his middle period, from about 1803 to about 1814. Beethoven composed highly ambitious works throughout the middle period which established Beethoven’s reputation as a great composer. This period has also become known as his heroric period as his works express heroism and struggle.

Although Beethoven enjoyed the generous support of the aristocracy throughout most of his life his work was widely accepted, and from the end of the 1790s Beethoven was not dependent on patronage for his income. Beginning about 1802, Beethoven’s work took on new dimensions, and his intention was to celebrate human freedom.

The enlightenment had encouraged the rise of the middle class and there was a need for large concert halls for the increased audiences. Beethoven’s 5th symphony was first performed in Vienna’s Theatre an der Wien in 1908. This was a huge concert that consisted entirely of Beethoven’s premieres, directed by Beethoven. This was the Theatre in which he was the composer from 1803-1804. Beethoven wrote his music to be heard by many and his humanity allowed him to write in a style that had broad and lasting appeal. This incredible piece of music was written to be performed in large concert halls for huge audiences not for a select few aristocrats in their drawing room.

Beethoven published his first symphony at age 30. His work was powerful and universal and his characterization of emotion set him apart from others, so when his work was published it was already in high demand from the new middle class.

 The 5th Symphony comprises of 4 movements but I chose this piece of music, as I especially love the dramatic opening and the last movement, which really is a true “finale”. The opening is so recognisable due to its 4 note movement that is repeated throughout all four movements. This piece of music with its suspenseful pauses and building intensity includes repetition and a common theme that makes it easy to listen to. It is dramatic which gives it a broad and lasting appeal and is still current today in its original form along with the current remixes as shown with the Vanessa Mae version included here.

Blog #2 Rembrant

Rembrandt van Rijn
Elephant drawings
Netherlands 1637

The two drawings shown are two of several drawings by Rembrandt of a female elephant thought to have been an Asian elephant named Hanske who was known to have been in Holland at this time.

Rembrandt, one of the most important painters in Dutch history also completed hundreds of drawings and etchings during his lifetime. As an artist in Holland, an independent Protestant Republic, Rembrandt was not commissioned by the church or royalty and relied on the new merchant class to buy his work. Amsterdam was the commercial capital of Europe and was intensely prosperous. Rembrandt’s work was produced for the new wealthy merchants who bought a lot of art to display in their homes, and reflected the environment of the protestant merchant class. Most of Rembrandt’s drawings were unsigned as they were often for his private use and acted as a record of his thoughts on paper, providing a snapshot of contemporary life in Amsterdam.

The reason I chose these drawings and not a painting or one of his many self-portraits was to show another facet of his work and the care and thought he put into his drawings. These black chalk drawings of what was an exotic animal at the time, were treated with the same care Rembrandt would have used for a commissioned portrait for members of the new merchant class. I love how through careful use of the strokes of chalk he evokes the rough and wrinkled texture of the animals skin. It is so lifelike and evokes emotion as was common with Baroque era paintings. His drawings capture his observations of the world and are reminders that this was the period in which traders and explorers were discovering the world overseas. Everyone became fascinated by “the exotic” and Rembrandt was no exception.

Although Rembrandt was not thought of as a painter of animals he actually included them throughout his works and they can often be seen on the sidelines of his paintings.

Blog #1: Renaissance

“Netherlandish Proverbs”
Pieter Bruegel (Elder)
Painted in Antwerp, 1559
Currently displayed Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Pieter Bruegel has been described as one of the greatest Flemish sixteenth century masters. I was originally going to select his painting entitled “Peasant Wedding” but upon further investigation into his works I discovered the “Netherlandish Proverbs” and was so intrigued by this piece that I changed my mind.
This piece was originally titled “The Blue Cloak” or “The Folly of the World” and as such indicates that Bruegel was aiming to produce a study of human stupidity. The painting includes visual representations of more than 90 individual proverbs, some of which I will outline later. Proverbs generally refer to a common experience and are often expressed in metaphor, alliteration and rhyme. Proverbs were well known to the people of sixteenth century Flanders and the portrayal of them in this painting would not have gone unnoticed. Although proverbs had been represented in Flemish art before, this painting is the first to create a whole world of them. Bruegel uses images of proverbs to depict a Flemish village scene and this became one of his most popular paintings. 
I found this piece to be particularly appealing as on first glance it appears to show a superficial gaiety but upon further reflection you are drawn to his allegories of a foolish and sinful world. Bruegel produced brilliantly organised and very original artwork that has a complexity that is intriguing.
Bruegel was influenced by his teacher, Pieter Coecke and also Hieronymus Bosch. He was friendly with some of the most prominent humanists of the Netherlands and from 1556 he concentrated his work on satirical and moralizing subjects. It was the custom at that time to regard the country folk as figures of fun and in rustic life human nature was less disguised. Therefore, when artists wanted to show up the foolishness of humankind, playwrights and artists often took low life as their subject. Bruegel’s paintings reflected the interests and concerns of the humanists in the middle of the sixteenth century not so much by celebrating human achievement, more by portraying his own personal vision of human folly and morality. Humanism really allowed him to portray human nature including moral lessons of the time. Living in Antwerp he had a diverse society of influences to draw upon and he was able to focus on the relationships and interactions between different social groups and recognise humanistic themes. Working in the aftermath of the Reformation Bruegel managed to achieve a contemporary and insightful vision of the world and, brought a humanising spirit to traditional peasant scenes, whereby he was able to depict peasants’ philosophical problems humorously.
Here are just a few of the proverbs and their meanings as illustrated in “Netherlandish Proverbs”
To bang one’s head against a brick wall – trying to achieve the impossible.
To be a pillar-biter – being a religious hypocrite. I thought this one was particularly apt with him working in the aftermath of the reformation.
The world is turned upside down – everything is the opposite of what it should be, once again the reformation had changed the world, as they knew it.
To have the roof tiled with tarts – To be very wealthy, could be linked to the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church.
To run like one’s backside is on fire – To be in great distress.
To toss feathers in the wind – To work fruitlessly.
To put a spoke in someone’s wheel – To put up an obstacle, to destroy someone’s plans.

“Pieter Bruegel the Elder.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. 9 Feb. 2010 <>.

First blog!

This healing temple was conceived by William Lee Rand and painted by Alex Gray. The Temple of the Great Beaming Light represents our own true nature that is already enlightened and can be experienced during deep meditation. It is from this enlightened place that all healing and miracles arise.

One of my favourite pictures.

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